Frisco, Texas — If Big 12 Media Day questions are good indicators, then the hiring of offensive coordinator Doug Meacham rates as the most significant offseason addition to the Kansas football program.
David Beaty's rebuilding project picked up credibility with the addition of Meacham and Beaty was more than happy to talk about the impact the former TCU co-offensive coordinator already has made.
“This game of football, it’s tough on these guys, a day-to-day grind for these guys. It’s a lot more than what a lot of people know. It’s very difficult," Beaty said. "I just believe you’ve got to have a little fun throughout that process. Doug has done such a great job of making sure that we have fun every day. He’s a guy who is infectious, and you just want to be around him. He’s one of those people. I love the fact that our kids want to be around him because it’s not always that you have coaches that they want to be around. They may be there, but they don’t want to be around him. They love being around Doug Meacham because he is so much fun and he’s really good at what he’s done.”
Now that they're on the same side, Beaty's getting a better look at the Air Raid wrinkles Meacham puts on the offense.
"Watching him put his spin on this Air Raid offense has been so much fun,” Beaty said. “It’s going to be really fun watching him put his personality into it. The concepts are all pretty similar, but like all of the guys who live in this offense, everyone has their own little personality and twist on it. It’s been fun watching him instill that. We’ve had some position moves. We’ve had guys move to new spots that I wouldn’t have thought to do that.”
Beaty cited Ryan Schadler’s move from running back to receiver as an example.
“Doug has done so many things to really focus on the individual skill sets of each player, to really utilize them correctly," Beaty said. "It’s been really fun to watch, and it’s just been fun to really just kind of be around him and to just soak up the knowledge that he’s brought to the room.”
Meacham and Sonny Cumbie shared the co-offensive coordinator title at TCU and Cumbie's role in play-calling was going to expand at the expense of Meacham before Meacham's move to Kansas.
Patterson was asked what impact he thought Cumbie calling the plays is going to have.
"Not much," Patterson said. "I mean, Sonny's been part of, you know, our offense, the way we do it, it's everybody's all in as far as the ideas and how we do things. So I don't see that. I think what we have to be able to do is we have to do what we need to do to move the football."
Somebody must have slipped something into former Missouri chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s tea for him to be foolish enough to get into a tongue fight with an elite college basketball coach.
Full disclosure: I absolutely love that Loftin picked a fight with Kansas basketball coach Bill Self because the Border Cold War had faded into obscurity and lacked fresh tension. It needed a signature moment to put people on edge and Loftin provided. I just can’t imagine why Loftin thought he could step into the ring with a man who makes such a handsome living because he knows exactly what to say and when to say it.
As do all the top-shelf college basketball coaches, Self knows what to say in a recruit’s living room, flashing just the right amount of Southern charm, mixed with the proper dose of gravity to discuss the athlete’s financial future as an impending NBA star, and a quick wit that leaves them laughing.
He knows just what to say to a new arrival who makes the mistake of shifting into cruise control in an early season practice and it’s quite a different one than the message he delivers in a pregame talk before the team takes the floor for a Final Four game after he leaves his players with no doubt that he doesn’t have a shred of doubt that they will win the game.
Great college basketball coaches are great communicators. They love to get into a war of words because they so seldom do anything but crush their opponents.
Predictably, Self knocked the elbow patches right off Loftin’s tweed jacket and needed only one of his many communication tools to drop him flat on his back in the middle of the ring. All Self needed was humor to score the one-punch knockout.
Loftin blamed Self for not resuming the Kansas-Missouri football games at Arrowhead Stadium. “The problem was a man named Bill Self, who made it very clear this wasn’t going to happen,” Loftin told AL.com.
Missouri and Texas A&M bolted to the SEC, abaondoing the Big 12, which spelled the end to their big rivalries. The Texas and Texas A&M rivalry also is on hold.
Read for the first time or re-read Loftin’s quote on those rivalries and then I have a question for you: “I think it’s more likely Texas will bend than Kansas as long as Self is involved. He has a big ego.”
When reading that did you also picture Loftin boasting to his friends at the Mensa Club meeting? You know, something along the lines of, “And then I said . . .”
If only Loftin had thought to compare paychecks before taking on the basketball coach of a perennial powerhouse. Loftin made $337,500 as chancellor of Missouri in 2016. Self makes $5 million. He should have taken on someone more on his pay grade, someone like a nuclear physicist or a world leader.
Self stood up, did a couple of quick stretches and scored a one-punch knockout with three quick sentences to the Journal-World's Matt Tait: "Tell the ex-chancellor I coach basketball, not football, and that we would never play a game in Arrowhead or even discuss it. It's too cold. We play our games indoors."
Loftin brought a Bic spitball shooter to a nuclear war and because of his lack of wisdom, the Border Cold War bubbled to the surface.
Thank you, chancellor!
The big news about an impending $300 million renovation project for Memorial Stadium came with no details, but since it’s such a huge undertaking it’s easy to draw a few conclusions. First, naming rights are certain to go to the biggest donor or donors.
Second, the renovation will come in stages, not all at once. Since KU doesn’t have a viable option for a temporary home field in the event Memorial Stadium is shut down for a year, it won’t be shut down for a year and all the work will take place from the day after the final home game of each season until the days leading up to the season opener.
TCU and Kansas State underwent their stadium facelifts in phases and so will KU.
Best guess as to the portion of the stadium that will be addressed first is the West side, where the luxury suites and most desirable seats are because the sun isn’t in spectators’ eyes, then maybe the south side end, where the team enters and exits the field.
The stadium will be wired to the max so that fans can watch a play Iive and then watch the instant replay on their phones.
Sports franchises today count man caves as serious competitors for their stadiums, which must include bars, restaurants, family-friendly entertainment options that stretch beyond the field of play.
A sum of $300 million can buy plenty of bells and whistles. And if the money is spent wisely and the stadium sparkles, it also can buy Kansas coaches a seat at the table of big-time recruits more regularly than in the past.
Rehabilitated stadiums tend to become fashionable places to go, even more so if they develop catchy nicknames.
That of course will depend on the name of the new stadium. The identity of the major donor remains a secret, but just for the sake of using an example, let’s suppose it’s David Booth. It wouldn’t take long before the stadium would become known as “The Booth,” as in, “See you at The Booth on Saturday.”
The planned stadium renovations will go down as athletic director’s Sheahon Zenger’s legacy, a big step in his recovery from the program-damaging hire of football coach Charlie Weis.
Zenger initially had announced that a special fundraiser would be in charge of the football-stadium project but never made that hire and let Matt Baty, head of the Williams Fund, and his staff, including closer extraordinaire John Hadl, meet with the donors, explain the goals and ask for the order. They obviously did a terrific job, leading to Wednesday night’s announcement in Kansas City.
The message rings loudly: You don’t spend $300 million on a football-stadium renovation if you don’t care about football.
It has been another offseason of roster upheaval for the Kansas women’s basketball program headed by Brandon Schneider.
One year after two-year starter Lauren Aldridge’s surprising decision to transfer to Missouri, three sophomores who combined for 30 starts this past season have left the program.
The departure of McKenzie Calvert, whose sharp decline in production during Big 12 play and team-second attitude led to a permanent spot on the bench by the end of the season, did not come as a surprise. She started 12 games and scored 30 points in a non-conference game vs. UC Riverside before heading into a shooting slump she couldn’t shake.
Jayde Christopher started 16 games, averaged 19.4 minutes and three points and had a team-high 82 assists.
Aisia Robertson started two games, averaged 15.2 minutes, 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds.
All three players who left the program had rough shooting seasons: Robertson (.287 shooting percentage), Calvert (.294), Christopher (.307).
As a team, the Jayhawks shot .338 from the field. TCU was ninth in the conference with a .410 accuracy rate.
At this point, coach Brandon Schneider enters his third season with five returning players, four transfers from junior college and three freshmen.
Three of the returning players started last season for the Jayhawks (8-22 overall, 2-16 in conference). Jessica Washington (17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Chayla Cheadle (4.7, 4.7) are rising seniors, Kaylee Kopatich (9.5, 4.4) a junior. Junior Chelsea Lott played sparingly in her first two seasons. Tyler Johnson spent last season as a redshirt while recovering from a knee injury. During a promising freshman season, Johnson averaged 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field. She started seven games, including the final four of the season.
To a large extent, it appears, Schneider is starting over. He has one terrific player in Washington, but she might be forced to look to score too often again this season if more scorers don’t develop around her than was the case last season.
The challenge in taking on a rebuilding project like the one for which Schneider signed up is that moving up the standings in the powerful Big 12 requires climbing past another school.
That’s tough to do without changing perceptions about the program embedded in recruits’ heads. So far, it doesn’t look as if Schneider has been able to do so.
None of the incoming freshmen made the HoopGurlz top 100 recruiting rankings.
Eleven top 100 high school players signed with Big 12 schools. The Jayhawks were not the only school skunked. Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech did not land any top 100 players either. The four schools that didn’t add a top 100 recruit finished seventh through 10th in the Big 12 standings.
Texas (3, 4, 33) and Baylor (19, 20, 64) landed three top 100 recruits apiece, Kansas State picked up two (59, 97) and Oklahoma (32), Iowa State (42) and West Virginia each added one.
Unless a few of the seven newcomers catch on quickly and have productive seasons, Kansas likely is headed for a third consecutive last-place finish in the Big 12.
The two-season conference records of Big 12 women’s basketball teams since Schneider took over for fired Bonnie Henrickson:
Sometimes youth is a bona fide excuse for a team falling short of its goal. Sometimes a young roster translates to a bright future. Sometimes it doesn’t because young doesn’t necessarily mean talented.
In the case of a Kansas baseball team that fell shy of NCAA tournament worthiness, the young talent on hand does appear to give the Jayhawks a shot at putting together back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, starting in 2018.
Unless shortstop Matt McLaughlin is drafted high enough and offered enough money to bypass his senior year, KU will return its entire starting lineup, including all three weekend starting pitchers.
Leadoff man/center fielder Rudy Karre and second baseman James Cosentino make a nice one-two punch at the top of a lineup that could use a power hitter added to the middle of the lineup.
Kansas coach Ritch Price has drawn criticism at times for not recruiting enough players from Kansas, generally having fewer in-state players than the state’s other two Div. I baseball programs.
That argument would hold more water if Kansas State and Wichita State were outperforming KU, but neither program has done so in recent seasons.
In the past four years, Kansas has a 40-54 record in Big 12 play, Kansas State a 31-65 mark. Advantage KU. Over the same period, KU’s average RPI has been 26 spots higher than that of former powerhouse Wichita State . This past season, Kansas finished with an RPI of 61. Kansas State checked in at 95, Wichita State at 146.
The goal is not to be the best team in the state of Kansas, rather to gain an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Kansas has failed in that regard for three consecutive seasons. K-State and Wichita State each have missed the past four tournaments.
Some believe recruiting more Kansas players will put Price on the road to better success, but nobody is calling for the Wildcats or Shockers to take that path. If anything, both schools appear to be expanding their recruiting horizons.
Baseball recruiting isn’t tracked with the same fervor as football and basketball, but there is at least one website that does a nice job of keeping up on it.
Perfectgame.org lists 10 high school baseball players from the state of Kansas who have committed to Div. I baseball programs. Kansas leads the way with three, followed by Arkansas and Kansas State with two apiece and three schools (Arkansas-Little Rock, Kentucky and Missouri) have received one pledge from Kansas high school baseball players.
Kansas landed state Gatorade Player of the Year Conner VanCleave, a 6-foot-7 left-handed pitcher/first baseman from Holcomb High, outfielder Blaine Ray from Ottawa High and left-hander Daniel Hegarty from Blue Valley High in Leawood.
The Jayhawks also picked up a power arm with the potential to close games or start them. Blue Valley High graduate Ryan Cyr, a 6-3 right-hander, was dismissed from Mississippi State for a violation of team rules and transferred to Kansas. As a freshman for Mississippi State in 2016, Cyr went 1-1 with a 1.04 ERA in 17-1/3 innings. He made one start and 11 relief appearances.
Kansas has 12 commitments from junior college and high school players. Undersized Eli Davis from Shawnee High in Oklahoma is a left-handed power pitcher and left fielder who plays baseball with an in-your-face style sure to make him a fan favorite at Hoglund Ballpark. As will VanCleave, Davis will be given a shot at pitching and playing in the field.
Nearly 30 years ago, when I was covering the UC Irvine basketball beat, I enjoyed getting to know Andy Andreas, a volunteer assistant coach who was convinced he could get the high-scoring Anteaters to play better defense. He quit at the end of the nonconference season after back-to-back losses in which Irvine allowed a combined 255 points.
Long after I forget any other details about that season, I’ll remember what Andreas told me about the question he used to ask himself if undecided as to whether a player was worth recruiting: “If I cloned him four times and sent those five players onto the court, could I win with them?”
That’s a tough standard because so few players meet it. Landen Lucas has done a fine job for Kansas at center, but you can’t win with five of him. Even Frank Mason, such a relentless thorn in any defense’s side, underrated defender and a strong defensive rebounder, doesn’t qualify. National player of the year, yes, but can you win with five of him? No, because he can’t defend a post player.
Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound force on the block, averages 18.9 points and 13 rebounds and shoots .483 on 3-pointers. Close, but teams would apply full-court pressure against five Swanigans.
Villanova’s Josh Hart? Close, but he’s not who you want defending a low-post scorer.
Josh Jackson. Now you’re talking.
Watching Jackson’s defensive versatility in KU’s most recent late-game domination to pull out another squeaker made me think of Andreas, who by the way was the first man to hire Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, assigning him to the JV team at Cuyahoga Falls High (Ohio) in 1962. Five Josh Jacksons could win a national title.
Jackson spent much of Saturday’s game guarding Baylor’s 7-foot center, Jo Lual-Acuil, who averages 9.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. He totaled 11 points and two boards Saturday.
On the game’s final possession, Jackson left Lual-Acuil to double-team point guard Manu Lecomte with Frank Mason. Long enough to guard a 7-footer, quick enough to stay in front of a 5-11 guard, Jackson did a great job all afternoon of getting his fingertips on passes and lent timely help defense on the interior. Lucas and Jackson trapped Johnathan Motley late in the game to force a key turnover.
NBA talent judges put great value on being able to guard a wide variety of players because of all the switching NBA defenders are required to do.
Jackson’s just as versatile offensively. His vision makes him a great passer, sometimes too good a passer for teammates to be ready, such as on the game’s opening possession. He drives and dishes and does a nice job of picking apart zones from the high post with precise passes. He blows by defenders on the dribble and has a nice post-up game, knowing just where on the glass to hit with his bank hooks.
He’s terrific starting fastbreaks with outlet passes and even better finishing them by throwing down lobs and is equipped to have the ball in his hands in transition as well.
Jackson’s consistently tuned in and turned up, which leads to a rapid improvement rate because his mind never rests, a big factor in him stuffing the box score across the board.
He’s an easy pick for first-team all-conference honors. Using conference games only is the only fair way to compare players since every team’s nonconference schedule is different.
In Big 12 games, Jackson ranks sixth in the Big 12 in scoring (17.1), tied for sixth in rebounding (7.1), ninth in field-goal percentage (.486), tied for 14th in assists (2.9), tied for sixth in steals (1.9) and 13th in blocked shots (1.0).
Most of Josh Jackson's highlights from Tuesday night's Walk Chalk Jayhawk, 90-88 victory vs. Kansas State happened in the first half.
A YouTube compilation linked on Twitter @DawkinsMTA does not feature Jackson's most explosive play of the night, a way-up-there slam over D.J. Johnson, which is sort of fitting considering his most amazing plays came when he was on his feet, passing the ball.
Most of them came during a first half in which Jackson totaled 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. They show that he's a better passer than dunker, dribbles at least as well if not better with his left hand as his right and was right there, in the air, ready to tip in a miss, had there been time left and had Svi Mykhailiuk's game-winner popped out.
I declare color commentator Fran Fraschilla, @franfraschilla, the winner of the Twitter storm generated by Svi's travel to glory with this Tweet: "The endorsement opportunities are starting to roll in for Svi Mykhailiuk. Travelocity just called."
Runner-up goes to Scott Dyess, @scottdyess_RCJ, with "Whole new meaning of Svi for Three. But yes, it's in the books."
Or was it four steps? Either way, it moved Kansas to 2-0 in the Big 12 with a 90-88 victory and sent Bill Self to the chalkboard to try to figure out how to get his team to play tougher defense.
Svi's winning walk led many to cite walk-themed songs, which was enough to send me to YouTube to relive my youth by taking a few more listens to old favorites, such as:
"Walk On By," from childhood crush Dionne Warwick, cousin of the late Whitney Houston.
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," from childhood crush Nancy Sinatra.
"Walk On," by Neil Young, my favorite for nearly 50 years.
"Walk Away Renee," Four Tops, underrated Motown artists.
"I Walk the Line," Johnny Cash, the late, great versatile voice from the past.